Tesla plane crash: Concern about airports near neighborhoods

The Tesla plane crash in East Palo Alto, Calif., occurred in heavy fog. The accident, which killed three Tesla employees, raises questions about general aviation flying near residential neighborhoods.

Paul Sakuma/AP
Menlo Park firefighters inspect the scene after a Cessna 310 hit a house in East Palo Alto, Calif. on Wednesday, Feb. 17. The small plane crashed in the residential neighborhood shrouded in heavy fog, killing all three Tesla Motors employees aboard. There were no reports of injury on the ground.

Three employees of Tesla Motors, the high-end Silicon Valley electric car maker, died when their twin-engine Cessna 310 airplane collided with power lines and then crashed into an East Palo Alto, Calif., neighborhood Wednesday morning.

The accident destroyed a children’s home daycare center, damaged three homes, and caused massive power outages throughout neighboring Palo Alto, where the company is based. No one was killed or injured on the ground.

The cause of the crash has yet to be determined – and the names of those killed had not been released as of Wednesday afternoon – but many have blamed the dense fog that blanked much of the San Francisco Bay Area Wednesday morning.

Some reports following the crash suggest the victims included a Tesla executive and two of the company’s engineers.

In a brief statement, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the accident was a “tragic day” for the “small, tightly-knit company.”

The company, which is known for its expensive, high-performance electric sports cars, has yet to be profitable and is on the verge of going public.

Mr. Musk took some heat recently for using a private jet to fly to Washington to secure a $465 million federal loan after Detroit automakers were criticized for doing the same thing.

In East Palo Alto, the accident is raising fresh concerns about the safety of living near a general aviation airport, such as the one where the Tesla employees departed en route to the Los Angeles area.

“The crash shows that this is dangerous," Marie McKenzie, an East Palo Alto resident who lives near the scene of the crash, told NBC News. "Individual pilots are different than commercial pilots. The foggy conditions are inappropriate to fly in."

Ms. McKenzie said he has been working for years to no avail to keep planes from flying directly above the neighborhood.

Last April, a twin-engine propeller plane, taking off from an airport near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., crashed into a home near the runway. According to the Associated Press, two other planes taking off from the same airport crashed in nearby residential areas shortly after takeoff.

In October, a small plane crashed into a house near Atlanta after it took off from a nearby airfield. The accident killed both the pilot and a woman inside.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, 1,466 general aviation accidents occurred in 2009 resulting in 473 fatalities. In 2008, there were 1,566 small plane accidents and 494 deaths.


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